The President of the Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative (ART) has criticized the rush to establish more airports by State governments, noting that most of the existing aerodromes are not commercially viable.
The development of hubs at major airports in Nigeria, such as Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos, would attract more traffic and airlines, but current facilities are lacking.
State governments should focus on developing short and long-term enforceable plans for their states and improving road linkages to existing airports before embarking on airport development projects.
Dr Gabriel Olowo, the President of the Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative (ART), has queried the rush to establish more airports by State governments, saying that most of the existing aerodromes are not commercially viable.
Instead, he advised that efforts should be geared towards developing hubs at the major airports in the country, especially at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos with numerous terminals. He added that the development of hubs would attract more traffic and airlines.
Most of the airports are not commercially viable
Speaking with Nairametrics in an interview today, Olowo observed that most of the airports, apart from the ones in Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt, are not commercially viable.
According to him, facilities that would make the existing airports a hub are still lacking in most of the country’s airports and mentioned the absence of a concourse light train network to connect domestic and international terminals and vice versa in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and Kano airports.
He further noted that facilities like self-check-in service kiosks are also lacking in most of the country’s airports.
He decried that there are too many “toll gate checkpoints” at the international gateways of the country, noting that many of the agencies needed to share data and file a single watch list with security.
He insisted that the presence of many “toll gate checkpoints” at the Nigerian airports was a major deterrent for hub development.
What the state governments should be doing
He insisted that there must be a deliberate effort by the government to develop hubs and not by building non-functional airport silos all over the states, thereby overstretching the already stressed treasury.
On the plan by the Abia and Edo State governments to build additional airports in their states, Olowo described it as good politics, but bad economics.
He queried the status of Benin Airport and advised the State Government in Edo to develop the airport for improved use.
He wondered if the State governments had short-term and long-term development plans for their states, stressing that each state should have a five to 10 years development plan for their states, which must be strictly honoured by subsequent leadership.
“Passenger facilitation is made more cumbersome rather than the global effort at making it seamless.
“For Lagos Airport to become a hub, first-class and world-class airport transfer connection facilities are necessary. Concourse light trains should be built to connect the terminals, rather than allowing transit and or transferring of passengers to check out of the customs, burst into the precarious mammoth crowd in rain and shine with their baggage to pick a taxi to the next connecting terminal.
“This is very absurd and a shame for MMA in 45 years of its existence since 1978. Transit or transfer passengers dread Lagos Airport, especially in the evenings.”
Focus on the short and long-term enforceable plan
On cargo airports, the ART President lamented that the intra and interstate road linkages to the airports are in deplorable states and wondered how such airports would be useful to farmers and other users to deliver their products.
Olowo emphasised that airports are not only expensive to build because of the many facility linkages, but also expensive to maintain.
He submitted that there must be a short and long-term enforceable plan by succeeding governments before embarking on airport development if the government was to be a continuum.
“One governor quitting and another abandoning the project such as revealed during the launch of Ogun State agro-cargo airport runway is lamentable.
“Regarding cargo airports, the roads to take the products to the airports are either not available or in bad shape with a high propensity for trucks to tumble and perishable goods destroyed. Explosive goods will also explode. Day-old chicken and eggs were massively destroyed. States should put their heads together for the establishment of safe, functional and durable interstate road linkages first, rather than conceiving the idea of a new agro aerodrome.
“The airport in the Western region of Ibadan and others like that are still operating below capacity. The geographical neighbouring states should cooperate on road and rail linkages and upgrade the airport to a world-class standard for the service of Ogun, Oyo, Ondo, Ekiti and others. It’s bad economics if airports are to deliver economy of scale,” he maintained.
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